January 2021

Jazz Hands.png

Hello Weinberg! My name is Theresa, and I am the flutist of Ears Engaged. We are so excited to be back with another virtual concert for you, & we had so much fun putting tonight’s program together, featuring jazz standards. So without further ado, I’m going to get us started with a song. If you know the tune, I hope you’ll sing along. 


Thank you Theresa for that beautiful version of Fly me to the Moon.

Hello, my name is Casey and I play the bassoon in Ears Engaged. A few weeks ago I was sitting on my couch, all cozy with my dog, researching recording artists of the 1930’s; and learning all about how the ‘standard jazz repertoire’ was born. 

Along the way I came across a particularly striking video of Mary Lou Williams on the piano. I was inspired by her hands, and how each finger moved independently to create the stunning music that filled the concert hall. It made me look down awestruck at my own hands.

As a musician, I have spent my entire life focused on developing the small muscles in my hands to be able to move on command with the quickest mobility. Our finger strength and coordination allow us to create art, but our hands also allow us to do so much more.

This is the inspiration that formed tonight’s concert; Jazz Hands. We hope you enjoy our program featuring the music made known by George Gershwin, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and more. 

First up I want to share that video of Mary Lou Williams that inspired me from the beginning. Mary grew up in East Liberty right here in Pittsburgh, she lived from 1910-1981. Mary Lou William was the most accomplished and influential female jazz pianist, arranger, composer, and teacher in the 20th century. Watch her hands as she gracefully bounds all around the keyboard and I encourage you to think about all the things you are grateful for that your hands can do. 


As a group we began to think about everything we use our hands for daily. We started to appreciate each tiny muscle, bone, and tendon that goes into everyday tasks, or relaxing with a hobby, and of course playing our instruments. So we created a video of our favorite activities as a way to express gratitude for all the work our hands do for us and to share part of our lives with you!


There are just SO many activities we do with our hands and oftentimes take for granted.  Maybe cross stitching, gardening or writing resonate with you; but for me, it’s playing the clarinet.

I have a very special solo to share with you on clarinet.  Listen carefully and see if you know what it is! 


If you thought it was Rhapsody in Blue, you are correct!  This is a solo part of a larger orchestral work composed by George Gershwin and was premiered on February 12th, 1924 in New York city by Paul Whiteman and his band with Gershwin on the piano.  What makes this clarinet solo so special is how it is typically played.  

Traditionally, I play clarinet one note at a time… (Demonstrate) think of it climbing one step after the other.  But in the solo, I slowly peel my fingers off the instrument to create a sliding effect in the pitch (demonstrate)... you can think of that more like riding an escalator.  I’m going to play the entire solo again and this time I want you to watch and listen carefully to the different fingering techniques that I use on clarinet. 

Speaking of Gershwin, I believe Casey has another popular piece that he composed for us to enjoy. 


That was very interesting CJ, thank you for sharing your clarinet knowledge with us! 

When I think about Gershwin my mind goes to summertime, because when I was 14 years old my voice teacher handed it to me and said, “this is what we are working on next, you’re going to love it” and of course she was right. The minor melody mixed with diminished chords makes for a piece that you will find yourself humming all day. It makes me long for the easy days of summer when going outside only requires slipping on a pair of sandals.


Thank you so much, Casey! When I was in high school, I got to play Gershwin’s wonderful music for “Porgy & Bess” in orchestra. Ever since, “Summertime” has been an old favorite of mine. 

[screen-share Archibald Motley painting]

During the 1920s, jazz rose to fame, & so did the American painter, Archibald Motley. Today, he’s remembered & celebrated as the Jazz Age Modernist. Here is one of his paintings, “Gettin’ Religion.” 

Painting & music have a few things in common. For one, they both depend on the artist’s hands! Another similarity is the way painters & musicians tell stories. 

Just as painters tell a story with shapes & colors, musicians tell stories with different instruments, rhythms, volume, & more. For our next piece, I made a video that combines painting with music played by Casey, Alaina, & I. Unlike the music you’ve heard so far, this music was written long, long ago - as in, 200 years ago. The composer, Giuseppe Cambini, lived in Italy during the 18th century. In this music, I hear a story about 3 characters that start out in agreement. Everyone knows where everybody else is. Then one person gets lost, & before you know it, no one knows where anyone is. Somehow, everything falls back into place, but it takes 4 minutes of going back & forth, getting lost, & found, & lost again. 

In this video, a lot of the paintings only have 3 colors, for the 3 characters. All of them show something about what’s happening inside the music. I had a lot of fun finding connections between the paintings & the music, & I hope you do too!

[play video]


This next jazz standard was introduced in the Broadway show International Revenue starring Harry Richman and Gertrude Lawrence. Many Greats performed it including Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and so many others. This song brings a message of hope as it was originally sung during the Great Depression where the end was not in sight so I hope you enjoy, and I hope you try living On the Sunny Side of the Street.


For this next piece, we need YOUR help.  We will be playing a song made popular by Ella Fitzgerald, but we want you to feel the music with us through body percussion.  There will be three different patterns using our hands and fingers. 

Pattern 1: 1Clap 3Slide

Pattern 2: 1&2Snap 3Clap

Pattern 3: Syncopated Slide

I’ll be on the screen to help you out.  Feel free to improvise your own body percussion.  Maybe you want to tap your knees, your nose or toes; or pat your head.  You choose!  But of course, feel free to follow my lead =)                  


Now we are on to the final part of our concert, the time when we would love for you to sing along with us. The lyrics will be on the screen and the first song up will be played by me!

It’s only a paper moon was written in 1933 and was recorded by a variety of artists including Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Paul McCartney, and Frank Sinatra. It is now regarded as a jazz standard and the lyrics start like this, (sing) “Say it’s only a paper moon, sailing over a cardboard sea, But it wouldn’t be make-believe if you believed in me.”

I hope you have enjoyed this concert featuring music from recording artists of the 1930’s. We had a great time piecing it together and reflecting on the significance of our hands. If you have any feedback regarding this concert or would like to get to know us, please feel free to email us at earsengaged@gmail.com. We would love to hear from you.